From the Executive Director’s Desk

(NEWSLETTER: Winter 2020)

As I look toward this opportunity and what lies ahead in my new role as Council Executive Director, I wanted to use this first newsletter installment to give a bit of background on me and how I ended up here at the Council. Certainly, a big part of the “how” is that I’ve always identified as a fisherman. I owe thanks for that to my Dad, who introduced me to fishing, probably before I could walk, and always made time for fishing trips. While my hometown of Fredericksburg, Virginia, on the banks of the Rappahannock River, is not known as a fishing destination, it is centrally located to a wide variety of fishing opportunities. From freshwater trout streams a few hours west, to the Chesapeake Bay a few hours east, to local rivers, lakes, and ponds, there was always something for us to fish for. Our fishing season started the first Saturday in April with the opening of freshwater trout season. Soon after, the shad and river herring began heading up the Rappahannock and shad darts filled a wall in Chesley’s tackle shop. Next came chasing spawning bluegills with poppers. Summers meant farm pond bass, wading and canoeing for smallmouth in the Rappahannock, and trips to the coast for a taste of salt. Fishing closed out in late Fall with more mountain trout trips, then it was time for hunting, tying flies and getting ready for the next year.

All this outdoors stuff led me to the Natural Resources Management Program at VA Tech and a Bachelor of Science in Forestry and Wildlife. Even then, a BS did not get you far in a state agency, but I was able to get started in fisheries with a temp field biologist position with Maryland Department of Natural Resources. After a couple years of temporary ‘contractual’ employment, grad school seemed a necessity, so I headed off to NC State for a Master’s degree, where I studied Striped Bass spawning migrations and learned about stock assessments. I received a crash course in marine fisheries management by taking a job as a Fishery Management Plan Coordinator at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, but Washington DC, while not too far from my original home range, was just no place to be. Since I wanted to do something more science related, I headed down to NC Division of Marine Fisheries in Morehead City to work on stock assessments. That helped land me a spot on the Council’s Scientific and Statistical Committee, and when a chance came to work at the Council 16 years ago on the new SEDAR stock assessment program, I jumped at it.

Looking back at this path brought back a lot of memories, and I realized that one of the great things about working in fisheries along our coast is the people, both scientists and fishermen, you get to know and work with over many years and through many different roles. I am thankful to the Council for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to working with both old and new friends as we work to conserve the fish and fisheries in our care.


John Carmichael


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